I find myself saying something these days that I used to hear my grandmother say, when she was probably younger than I am now, but I thought she was surely older than Methuselah. Those pearls of wisdom? "Old age is not for sissies." Usually said after she grimaced with a new pain in a hip or her back or just a twinge of age tweaking some body part that was best left untweaked. Right on, grandma! Just being an adult is bad enough, but when you add the insult of advanced age to the injury of being an adult, things get downright messy.
Adulthood is crowded and loud, dense with confusion and pain from the daily dramas that assault you at every turn. You're faced with moronic rules that have little if anything to do with the attainment of anything even remotely resembling the happiness you were always sure you'd have back when you were a teenager dreaming of the time when you be in that magical land of "on your own." I've been there. I've lived there. I bought the lawn mower for it. It's not all that and only half a bag of chips.
The stench of unfulfilled dreams rotting in the recesses of your mind sometimes seems overwhelming and not even the biggest bottle of Febreeze or Calgon will take it away. The heart that you once offered so casually to those that put a sparkle in your eye is now scarred by time. Perhaps by the shards of innocence that were hurtled against it at some point that now you can barely recall, but is always there to tug at your memory when you hear a particular piece of music or see some inconsequential thing that immediately has great importance...but you're not sure why. There's never enough money, no matter how much you have or how hard you work. Everyone you love dies, is sick, or decides they don't love you any more. The ones that are left are so busy that they might as well be dead for all the good their existence does you. The knees start to go and you have to be careful how you step for fear of breaking a hip.
The hands you used to hold, the ones that got you through a night filled with bad dreams, are either not there, or are so frail that you fear breaking them if you squeeze them in your pain or panic. You still dream, but it's more remembering the past than the dreams you used to have of secret gardens, hidden doorways, mossy pathways to a hidden tryst or standing at the top of a mountain knowing you have once and for all "made it."
There are no bonfires with marshamallows on twigs, no candlelight flickering in a breeze lighting up a lover's face, no Mason jars full of fireflies waiting to be released to dance with their cousins. Sure you could still do those things, if you wanted to, but it just takes so much energy. And, the change in weather has your arthritis kicking up. And besides, there's an old Magnum PI you wanted to catch tonight.
No, being old isn't for sissies. Even though life has made me tougher now than I've ever been in my life. I have lived through things I was sure would kill me. I've done things that should have. But I'm still standing. I've stared at demons that I've feared since I was a young child. The only fear I have left is that of dying alone. And that fear is loud and consistent in my brain, reminding me that the ferryman is waiting to take me to that other shore, sooner rather than later. I've walked a lot of paths with someone I loved. I've walked a lot of hard paths alone. I like together better. I don't like living alone. I'm fairly certain that dying alone would be infinitely easier. Because you'd know there is an end. I wish I knew now that living alone was going to come to an end.
I sit in the darkness of my back porch and I watch the fireflies flitting about and I think of those halcyon days when summer was infinite and Christmas took forever to get here. Birthdays were cause for celebration and even just reaching the half-year mark was worth cheering over. And I wonder at exactly what point I became "an old woman." I never saw it coming. I still don't see it, unless I look in the mirror. On the inside, I'm still young. And I still believe in dreams, even though adulthood has tried its best to crush them out of me. I keep praying for someone who will look at me and see the dreams instead of the grey hair and sagging skin. Someone who will stand beside me as we dream dreams together of whatever future is left and fight the demons of old age together. Old age ain't for sissies, especially when you're fighting that one last demon.
I want a hand to hold as I slip away.
On a recent job application, only one question slowed me down. "What are you most passionate about?" It didn't give me pause because I couldn't think of anything, only because the space allowed was so small. I think the question might have been easily answered in that small spot by "What are you NOT passionate about."
I know almost everyone is passionate about something. Whether it's their grandchildren, the state of the environment, politics, religion, a particular craft (I learned long ago never get between a quilter and a fabric sale!), a sport, or a possession (I dated a guy briefly who could carry on a one-sided conversation for hours...and did...on the merits of his car versus any other on the market).
But me? I'm passionate about almost everything. I'm all in to whatever I do...or I'm all out. No in-between. One of the many character traits that has driven more than one person in my life bat-crap crazy while trying to keep up. I believe if you can't go big, you should go home. Or at least go sit with the little dogs on the porch.
Some of my passions a bit more, well, passionate than others. Animal welfare is close to the top of that list. I have zero patience with anyone who breeds animals strictly for money (and after 25 years in the world of dog breeding and exhibition, I have to add "or ego" to that sentence. If you breed over one or two litters a year you are part of the problem) whether or not you have a waiting list and can justify every dollar you charge for your puppies). I think every single person who decides to have a litter of puppies or kittens for any reason should have to volunteer at an animal shelter, holding healthy happy animals as they spend their last terrified moment on earth before being given their final sleep. They should have to nurse back to health animals that trusted one human too many and almost paid with their life. Even years ago when I was involved in breeding and showing, I thought it was totally justified of cities and states to put a breeding tax on dogs and cats to slow down indiscriminate breeding practices. I still do.
Our environment is another major passion. I won't argue it standing in a picket line, or in a group of angry protesters holding signs and shouting, nor will I discuss it or argue it on social media or in conversation, but here I will state firmly that until we start worrying about our world as a whole, fervent pleas to "Make America Great Again" are nothing more than a clever slogan and marketing campaign. "Make our World Happy and Healthy Again" would be a much better goal. For instance, in my personal opinion, if someone really cared about the plight of coal miners, they would be honest with them and everyone else that coal usage has been in a decline for over a decade as the desire for a cleaner and more efficient product becomes more important for the majority of Americans. Add to that the fact that jobs that miners have traditionally held are being replaced more and more frequently by machines and you see that the decline of numbers of jobs in the coal minining industry hasn't been damaged by "tree huggers" nearly so much as just by the passage of time. Even if someone created a new use for coal and made it profitable again, there still would not be enough jobs to keep miners employed. Instead, desperate miners are used as a chip in a high stakes poker game between politicians who have no problem at all using lives as gambling pawns. So in an attempt to make themselves look compassionate and dedicated to lessening unemployment numbers, environmental laws are revoked that were kept in place to keep the dark side of coal mining from coloring our planet. And the few miners that are rehired join the many tools in the belt of a narcisstic government that uses the little guy as a stepping stone to their own rewards. That's just one small point that I have problems with in discussing our environment. There are many. Passion does that to you...makes you care enough to do actual research and search out unpleasant truths.
I'm also passionate about a dozen other things that affect my daily life. My pets, my garden, my home, my music and my writing. I am passionate about losing weight, even though I have health issues that are making it almost impossible. I'm passionate about swimming and exercising in the water. Just being near water restores my soul and my soothes my mind, so time spent in the pool doing water yoga, dance or aerobics is nirvana for me. I get passionate about creative projects too. My front porch at the moment looks like I'm having a yard sale, piled up with pieces of furniture and bits of junk that will be turned into something beautiful. Soon I hope.
I'm also passionate about finding the person that will share the rest of my life with me. That brings up the passion that I don't put into print. I'll leave it at "he will be a very lucky man".
I think I would have made a very good actress. I'm very good at stepping outside of myself and becoming whatever is needed of me at any given moment. I certainly would have no trouble at all handling the stage demand, "Once more, from the top, with passion!"
Not sure why suddenly it seems that every post topic is on dating. It's not the sole focus of my life, but I guess the things that puzzle me the most have to do with the people I've met in the last few months and how they've impacted my life.
I have always had dogs. Always. I came home from the hospital to a house with a Miniature Pinscher that ruled the place. He was old and cranky and I suffered more than a few dog nips (that breed is aptly named, by the way, minus that "s") before I learned to respect him. I will forever be grateful to my parents that they made ME realize that, rather than just "getting rid" of Tippy. They realized that he was there first and it was his home. I was the interloper. Once I learned to respect his warning growls and not chase him when he ran away from me, we were friends. And I've been friends with almost every dog I've met since.
I can't imagine a life where I woke up absolutely alone. As alone as I am, there is still a warm body to reach out and touch when I awaken in the night with a nightmare or hunger pains or yearnings. Someone who is happy to snuggle closer on cold nights and to lick away my tears if I cry. And dance around me when I laugh. They may be "just dogs" but they are my friends...my best friends...and I will never give them up for someone I've just met no matter how important the new person may be to me.
I never used to feel the need to explain this to someone I'd just started dating. I always said I had two house dogs (I can't imagine having pets that didn't share my life when I'm indoors as well as outside, but I respect the opinions of those that do) and two indoor-outdoor cats. I always assumed it was universal that pets that share your life are "family." If I still had a mom and dad and siblings, I wouldn't be quick to "get rid of them" either for a new man in my life. But a few months ago I dated someone who lived a fairly good distance away (anything under a six hour drive is a day trip for me, over six "a good distance"). We decided we wanted to meet, but were waffling over how to go about that. One of the dangers in dating online and finding someone interesting across the country from you. I could have flown to him, but I'd have to board my dogs. So, explaining that upfront as my reason, I invited him to visit me (stop shaking your head, don't judge me...I did my background searches, I'm not an idiot). He arrived and made himself at home in my guest room upstairs. I kept the dogs locked in my bedroom downstairs since he had been very upfront about the fact that he'd never been around dogs much.
This was a red flag I will never again ignore.
The next morning I was awakened by screams of horror coming down the stairs. I raced up to find my two girls dancing around his bed, excited by the fact that 'we has company, mom!' I laughed. He didn't find it amusing. I tried to be understanding, but good heavens. They weigh 7-10 pounds. Their tails were wagging and they were too short to even jump up on the bed! If they'd been 150 pound snarling beasts, I could have been a little more sympathetic.
I dragged them back downstairs and locked them back in my bedroom. He tentatively came downstairs, scolding me for not having "more control" over my "animals".
Needless to say, the weekend did not go well. Every time the dogs were around he shrunk into himself, not out of fear of being bitten I eventually realized, but the germ aspect. I never let him know that the dogs had probably licked the plates he ate from and drank from the glasses. They'd been through a steamy dishwasher cycle, but I'm pretty sure he would have demanded I take him to the ER, or call Poison Control. We had a lovely time when we were in the car going sightseeing, but his belief that I was an inch away from being condemned by the Health Department because I actually had a 'cat toilet' in my home made me more than a little uncomfortable when we were in my home that I'm sure he saw as some third-world hovel. The visit ended and we kissed goodbye at the airport. A very firm goodbye. He was a lovely man and in another time and place I could have flipped head over heels. But in this time, and in this place, I couldn't get past the overriding thought that he was a germophobic weenie.
I'm pretty much "over" the whole dating thing. I'm tired of bouncing, I'm tired of heart cracks and I'm tired of having to explain myself to men that have no clue how to deal with a woman who doesn't go to church every Sunday, attend various social functions throughout the week and have a three course meal set out every evening by six. Everyone says they want "different" and "unique" and "quirky" but few can deal with it when faced with it in person. I think the majority have some ideal woman at the very back of their subconscious mind that wears pearls and an apron during the day (aka June Cleaver syndrome) and silk teddies and a garter at night. The fact that I prefer to be sans clothes as much as possible sounds good on paper I guess, maybe I should add an apron and pearls and high heels to my birthday suit?
Although my interest has waned and my belief that "he is out there" is weakening, I'm not taking down my online profile. As flexible as I can be in my expectations, I have very few dealbreakers. But, I think I may add the disclaimer. In caps. "Must Love Dogs."
THAT'S MY STORY
I've never been normal. I've never tried to be. I can't imagine anything more boring.
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